The first reading is very important for what it demonstrates about the manner in which the Church should be governed, in order that the peace of the Church may be maintained. At the beginning of the reading, we see that the peace of the Church is disturbed by theological conflict concerning the role of the law of the Mosaic Covenant now that the community of the New Covenant has been formed. Some believe, essentially, that one must first become a Jew by entering the Old Covenant (through circumcision) before one can proceed to enter the New Covenant. Others say, no; direct entrance into the New Covenant is possible for Gentiles.
There were two groups, one under St. Peter who argued that circumcision was not necessary for Gentiles for salvation, and the second under the leadership of St. James, who firmly held that circumcision was necessary for the salvation of Gentiles.
A Church council is called, with Peter present to lead it. We could say that this is the “First Ecumenical Council of Jerusalem.” All the Apostles and elders (today, bishops and clergy) gather around Peter (today, his successor, the pope) and strive to come to a consensus.
So in the end, the whole council ends up confirming Peter’s position, together with James’s practical suggestions for implementation.
We note that the early Church does not split up. The “circumcisers” do not run off and start the “First Circumcision Church of Jerusalem” under the leadership of “Pastor James.” Thee whole Church—even those whose theological positions were rejected—accepted the conciliar decision and maintained unity.
The Church’s teaching authority, called “the magisterium” and exercised most solemnly by an ecumenical council under the leadership of (the successor of ) Peter, is a gift to the Church by God to maintain the Church’s peace. Otherwise, the Church would split into innumerable factions, and conceivably more than fifty thousand different churches would spring up, each with its own peculiar little theological twist or emphasis. God forbid that should happen!
The second thing we notice is that salvation is freely provided to us by God through Christ. That is, man's salvation does not depend on his works. Hence, the Holy Spirit confirms through the Apostles that it is God's love and His gift of Faith in Jesus for us that saves us when we receive and live it. Our prayers, our sacrifices or the observance of the Law are only expressions of our gratitude to God, who nourishes our Faith.
What touched me most is that though Peter appears as a hero in this narrative, putting an end to debate with his stirring exhortation, we must give credit to James, who had the grace and humility to concede the point and abide by the decision of the assembly. those who “lose” at councils often face the difficulty of swallowing their pride and accepting a decision with which they are not comfortable. This requires holiness, humility, and faith.
That is something we need to cultivate in our lives, especially in our community and even in our families. Humility to accept the other in the family. That is why st paul says : “Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Phil 2:3-4)
We need to remember always that the work of the holy spirit is not division but unification. So where ever there is division remember that it is not the work of the holy spirit.
So if we can raise up to this, we can be the new Jerusalem, the dwelling place of the “Lord God Almighty and the Lamb.” It is not just an idea, but it is something possible. Mary, the Mother of God, is the perfect example of that.
St John in the Gospel for today gives us an implicit spiritual portrait of the Virgin Mary when Jesus says: “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (cf. Jn 14: 23). These words are addressed to the disciples but can be applied to a maximum degree precisely to the One who was the first and perfect disciple of Jesus. Mary observed first and fully the words of her Son, showing that she loved him not only as a mother but, first of all, as a humble and obedient handmaid. For this reason, God the Father loved her, and the Most Holy Trinity made its dwelling place in her.
When we receive the holy eucharist, the trinity comes into us. But in order to get the peace and the effect of the indwelling of the trinity, we need to be humble, and our hearts must be pure as that of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
So let us pray and ask grace for ourselves to enjoy the gift of peace that Christ has brought through His Church and enjoy the same peace in our families too. So let us pray as we pray in the Holy Mass: “Lord Jesus Christ, who said to your Apostles: Peace I leave you, my peace I give you, look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church, and graciously grant her peace and unity in accordance with your will. Who live and reign forever and ever.